Ethan Hester, Corvallis

Corvallis senior wide receiver Ethan Hester and the Spartans will go for their first win of the season Friday at home against North Salem. With Lebanon, Silverton and West Albany likely to claim the Mid-Willamette Conference's top three spots, Corvallis would be one of seven remaining teams chasing two state playoff berths.

The favorites in Mid-Willamette Conference football are off to a good start after winning their season openers.

But who will join them in the playoffs?

It would be a strong surprise if either Lebanon, West Albany or Silverton missed out on the 5A postseason. They were the conference’s top three teams a year ago and all return numerous key players from those squads.

West Albany, a 2018 state semifinal team, wasn’t challenged in a 40-7 home win against McKay last Friday.

Lebanon, which lost a first-round playoff game at Crater last fall, regrouped at halftime and wore out Corvallis for a 62-28 home win. Silverton, which lost to West in a state quarterfinal, ran past Central, 50-0, in a road game.

Crescent Valley (33-7 at North Salem) and Dallas (58-13 at home against South Albany) were the other opening-week winners.

It seems unlikely, but not impossible, that any of the three favorites will trip up and lose to any of the remaining seven teams. The only such result in 2018 was Silverton’s 27-14 loss at Crescent Valley, preventing the Foxes from winning the league outright. Instead Silverton and West tied for first, and Lebanon was one game back.

Another similar outcome would leave the seven competing for two playoff spots.

The Mid-Willamette, also known as Special District 3, gets five automatic berths into the OSAA’s round-of-16 playoff bracket. The other two 5A leagues get the remaining 11 spots.

West Albany is third, Silverton fourth and Lebanon fifth in this week’s OSAA 5A coaches poll.

Crescent Valley and Central were the MWC’s other playoff teams last year, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the conference’s final standings.

If the top three teams are as dominant as they were last year, it makes every game between the other seven squads a big one.

CV gets a chance to again disrupt the favorites’ run to the top Friday night when the Raiders play at West Albany. They follow that with four straight games against other challengers for the postseason with Corvallis, Dallas, Central and South Albany.

Corvallis plays its next three games against challengers (North Salem, Crescent Valley, Dallas) before home games versus Silverton and West Albany in the following three weeks. The Spartans’ game with North is a significant one because both are trying to avoid their first loss against one of the other challengers.

South Albany’s schedule is loaded heavier in the first half, with a trip to Silverton on Friday and to West Albany in two weeks. The RedHawks finish the regular season with four games in five weeks against other playoff challengers outside the likely top three.

Central gets its shot at West Albany next week at home after going to McKay on Friday. The Panthers and Raiders meet Sept. 27 at Corvallis, Crescent Valley’s “home field” this fall as its own field is being renovated with a turf surface.

Dallas gets a measuring stick game against visiting Lebanon on Friday before taking on North Salem, Corvallis and Crescent Valley.

North Salem goes on the road for three straight games with Corvallis, Dallas and Silverton. The Vikings also have to go to West Albany and South Albany.

McKay, a 6A school playing 5A football, will learn quickly whether it has a shot at the playoffs with games against Central and South Albany the next two Fridays.

The Royal Scots have the longest playoff drought among current Mid-Willamette teams, having last made a state bracket in 2010. All the rest have been in the postseason at some point since 2015.

The first of three games between the teams expected to finish at the top of the conference standings is next Friday, when Lebanon hosts Silverton. West Albany goes to Lebanon on Oct. 4, and the Bulldogs close the regular season Nov. 1 at Silverton.

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